Marshall Crenshaw: Field Day of Dreams

A 40th Anniversary reissue revisits the New Wave great’s classic sophomore LP

Marshall Crenshaw Field Day (Remastered), Yep Roc 1983/2023 

When Marshall Crenshaw arrived on the music scene in the early ‘80s, he caused an instant sensation. 

A Detroit native and serious student of popular music from a young age, Crenshaw had already appeared in a production of Beatlemania and released the independent single “Something’s Gonna Happen” before signing to Warner Brothers Records. When his self-titled debut came out in the spring of 1982, critics raved and comparisons to Buddy Holly were rampant (probably based as much on Crenshaw’s looks as on his music!). The thing is, that album actually lived up to the hype! Marshall Crenshaw is an excellent, enduring album: 12 tunes that draw off pop, soul and (especially) rockabilly but recast it for the New Wave. From the catchy opener “There She Goes Again” to the hit single “Someday Someway” (which was also a hit for the late Robert Gordon) to gentler songs like “Mary Anne” and “Not For Me,” there’s not a bad tune in the bunch. Crenshaw co-produced the album with Richard Gottehrer and handled guitar, while his brother Robert was the drummer and Chris Donato played bass.

Crenshaw returned a year later with his sophomore set, Field Day. The same trio played on this disc as on his debut, but he handed production chores over to Steve Lillywhite this time around. An effusive Englishman who has worked with everyone from U2 to Dave Matthews and from Joan Armatrading to XTC, Lillywhite gave the album a “bigger” sound than the first LP had — and this divided critics. It seems ridiculous now (especially to Crenshaw himself), but Warner even forced him to do a remix EP of a few of Field Day’s songs because of the production. 

To these ears, the album sounded great and seemed like a natural progression from his debut. Tracks like “For Her Love,” “One Day with You,” “Hold It” and “Whenever You’re on My Mind” (a minor hit) were exuberant, upbeat pop songs. Elsewhere, Crenshaw turned in a cover of the 50s-style ballad “What Time Is It” and offered an infectious tribute to NYC with “Our Town.” The best song on the album, however, may be “All I Know Right Now.” Buried on side two, it’s a sadly beautiful mid tempo tune.


VIDEO: Marshall Crenshaw “Our Town”

Eight more studio outings followed Field Day, but they became more sporadic over the years. The last one, Jaggedland, was released back in 2009. But if he hasn’t been as prolific with albums as he once was, Crenshaw has remained busy. He’s released several EPs, moonlights as the lead singer for The Smithereens (standing in for his late friend Pat DiNizio) and has most recently been involved in reissuing those first two albums. The 40th anniversary reissue of Field Day arrived this month on Yep Roc Records. Boasting remastered sound, interesting liner notes, vintage photos and several bonus tracks, it’s a must for Crenshaw devotees. 

I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Crenshaw about Field Day for The Rock and Roll Globe.


The main thing that I wanna cover is the [Field Day] reissue.  There is a quote [in the liner notes] where you say, “It’s a unique and beautiful rock and roll record.”  (He laughs)  I want to ask you to expand on that because I always did think Field Day was a beautiful album.

That’s just how I would describe it. Anybody that has it can describe it however they want to. But, you know, it hit me that way when I was listening to the test pressing — not the Yep Roc reissue but the earlier one. Maybe four years ago, there was a label called Intervention Records that did a really nice audiophile vinyl thing of Field Day and I was listening to the test pressing. I hadn’t heard the album in a long time! And, you know, it just popped into my head.  I can’t think of any other record that’s like this; there isn’t any other record. It really captures the moment that it was created in, with all the fast paced craziness. And all the noises I was hearing around me and in my head already; everything’s here in this music.  

I remember people really being taken aback by how [the album] sounded. 


Why was that? I wasn’t aware of that until later. Was that because of Steve Lillywhite’s production?

I don’t have the slightest idea. I really don’t. But that’s what happened. It was received in a lot of funny ways back then. But I did really love the album. If you look at my first two albums, Field Day is a lotta steps forward from the first one. It brings back the best memories for me of any of my albums. Well, maybe the first two. {They] bring back amazing memories.

“Whenever You’re On My Mind” 7-inch (Image: Discogs)

Can I ask you about a few of the specific tracks on Field Day?  The opening track, “Whenever You’re on My Mind,” was also a hit. Tell me a little about that [song] and maybe why you put it first on the album.

Well, I thought when I finished it that it was an obvious hit single. And that was the normal thing to do — open the album with your hit single. People didn’t always do it that way. But I figured, “Put it right up front. Boom!” 

And I was channeling a lot of things.  I always mention Jackie DeShannon — this record from her from 1963, called “When You Walk in the Room.” I was really inspired by that record and I used to copy it a lot. There are about five of my songs from back then where I’m copying that one!  (laughter)  It’s like I took that record and turned it sideways and made a new song out of it, you know?  “Whenever You’re On My Mind” is part of that cycle.


My favorite song on the album — and it wasn’t a single as far as I know, but it’s sadly beautiful — was “All I Know Right Now.” Anything specific inspire that?

Thanks.  Yeah, it’s an emotional kind of song. Everything was moving at an overwhelmingly fast pace at that moment in my life. Just different kinds of turbulence happening and all this upheaval and stuff like that, It was a great moment, though. I really felt engaged with life, you know?  

There are a lot of really emotional songs on the album.  (long pause)  I was trying to create something that’ [would] engage the listener emotionally. And a good way to do that is to be invested emotionally in it yourself. So that was the kind of stuff I wanted to do. 

[“All I Know Right Now”] has got that nice, bluesy kind of guitar solo in it too. I don’t want to exaggerate, but I think it’s just one take. I was just kind of pouring it out.


There’s a few bonus tracks on this reissue. One of them is a cover of “Little Sister” by Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman. What led you to cover that tune?

I just thought it would be fun to play. That’s really it. We played a few Elvis Presley tunes in our set back then — maybe three or four different ones. At some point, we started doing “Little Sister.”

I was friends with Doc Pomus, like a lot of young New York songwriters in my peer group. Doc — you know, he wanted to connect with us. He was always out checking out music. I got friendly with Doc and he was a really remarkable person. Really knew how to be a friend, you know? So maybe that had something to do with why we started playing that tune. 

That bonus track is from… one of those syndicated radio programs of live recordings. FM Rock stations would carry these things on Sunday night maybe. There were six or seven different production companies, you know, and we did something for all of them. 


On a different note — when I was looking at the liner notes, I noticed Greg Calbi mastered Field Day originally. And it looks like he mastered the reissue as well. I’ve seen his name on hundreds of albums over the years. But I know nothing about Greg. Tell me who he is!

Let me see… I met him at the mastering session for my first album. Greg had gotten his start at The Record Plant [which] was a good training ground for a lot of people. There’s like a school of people I know who came through that place and they all have a fondness for the memory of it.  I didn’t know what mastering was. When we did all the mixes, I thought we were done with the album! And somebody said, “Well, no. We [still] have to master it.” I’m like, “I don’t even know what that is.” And they said, “Well come along and find out.” So I went.  I was kind of dubious about it because I thought they were dumping low end from the sound of the record. And they were!  Back then, the thing was to make sure the record didn’t skip ‘cause there was too much bass in it, you know? People were very mindful about that. But I’m taking all of this in and in between that, I’m talking to Greg. And we just hit it off immediately. Liked each other right away. 

Over the years, his approach has evolved and the gear that he uses is different gear than he had when [we] first crossed paths. You know, [in] 1982, in terms of audio, we were still coming out of the 1970s. Everything was solid state and everybody wanted that bingy-boingy, transistor kind of clean sound. Now there’s a lot of tube equipment in Greg’s rack and it’s just a different mentality. You don’t have to worry about so much bass. Anyway — Greg’s just great at what he does. He does it all day, every day. He has a beautiful sensibility about it and he’s a great person. He’s on every record I’ve done except maybe one. 

Original cover art for Field Day (Image: Discogs)

What was the music scene in New York City like in 1982 as you experienced it?

Well, it was really eclectic and innovative. You know, there was all kinds of excitement surrounding art and music. And great audiences! Everybody was, like, in love with the scene. It had its own built-in spirit and enthusiasm. 

It was all new to me, also; that’s the other thing. It was remarkable how exciting everything was.  (laughs)  There was a range of music that I [was] hearing. I always had an eclectic taste.  And I always had my radar up for interesting things. But, you know, [I was] really being bombarded at the time in New York with everything, from all over the world. I just love thinking back on it.


The early 80s did seem like a special period musically. For lack of a better expression, an embarrassment of riches.

Yeah. About a year ago, my wife and I watched this documentary called The Andy Warhol Diaries. And in that documentary, they were talking about that moment in time. The end of the 70s, going into the early 80s. Just before the AIDS crisis, a little before Ronald Reagan walked in the door of the White House. It was just this kind of magical moment. 



Dave Steinfeld

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Dave Steinfeld

Dave Steinfeld has been writing about music professionally since 1999. Since then, he has contributed to Bitch, BUST, Blurt, Classic Rock UK, Curve, Essence, No Depression, QueerForty, Spinner, Wide Open Country and all the major radio networks. Dave grew up in Connecticut and is currently based in New York City.

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